By Ed Piper
Freshman sensation Sakura Roberson of La Jolla High burned a time of 58.98 seconds in the 400 meter race to finish seventh in the Division I event at the prestigious Mt. Carmel Invitational March 29. Five of the six sprinters finishing ahead of her in the field from all over California were seniors.
Roberson is only one of a bumper crop of 27 ninth-grade girls who signed up for the La Jolla track squad this spring, much to the delight of new coach, Jason Karp. The roster total of almost 60 girls bodes continued success and excellence in the vaunted Viking track program.
Earlier that day, with Roberson running the anchor leg, the Vikings’ 4x100-meter relay team recorded a time of 52.46 seconds. Alex Bernal, Emma McCall-Delgado, another freshman, and Preauna Hunter ran the relay legs prior to Roberson’s.
Sophomore sprinter Liliana Becerril said, “Coach Karp focuses on getting the right mentality to get things done, as everyday he asks us, ‘What’s the main thing?’, to which we respond, ‘The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.’ He wants us to have the mentality for success.”
The La Jolla girls and boys, who have only had two away dual meets so far, host their first dual meet at home April 10 against Our Lady of Peace and St. Augustine, respectively, in Gene Edwards Stadium. In other events at Mt. Carmel, senior Kurt Rustin registered a time of 15.99 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles. Sophomore Alyssa Burnley successfully went 7 feet, 8 inches in the Division II pole vault. The girls 4x400-meter relay team finished in 4:23.70.
Karp harps on preparation as the key: “A philosophy (I have), since we’re in a rebuilding year, is to spend time focused on the training and the work that needs to be done. I keep telling them (team members) that confidence comes from being prepared, so we spend a lot of time on the preparation, and the track meets will take care of themselves.
“Week-to-week, they’re improving. I’m really happy with the way things are going,” said Karp. His doctorate is in exercise physiology. He is also a private coach for athletes in San Diego and across the country, with a specialty in distance events.
Among the boys, senior Ronnell Green, commented, “On the track team, we have fun and laugh, and we get the work done, and every event is always an improvement.” He participates in the long jump, 200 meters, 400 meters, and 4x100- meter and 4x400-meter relays. He said his present focus is on lowering his time in the 400 meters.
Ronnie Griffen, a senior and lineman in football, said, “Our workouts are very similar to the football workouts. We do a lot of weight training and conditioning. I don’t really go by a saying or motto other than to just keep working hard and stay committed.”
Regarding his goals in the shot put, Griffen commented, “For my technique, I try to work on my footwork and release, because I feel those two things will help me throw the farthest.”
Senior Vaill D’Angelo, who was on the pole vault team freshman year, but took off sophomore for medical reasons and junior year to focus on grades, said “I have rejoined this year, and in my opinion, it is going well. I think Coach Karp is a really cool guy and genuinely cares about track. Pole vaulters work with Coach Paul Byrne, who I really like as a coach, too.”
Said senior Connor Hayden, “As a team, we have all grown together and have started to learn to lean on each other and to be able to have each other’s backs.”